Last week, Taylor Swift and Ariana Grande performed for the Victoria's Secret Fashion show, and yesterday we got to see these performances for the first time. Taylor rolled out Blank Space and (1989's best track) Style, while Ariana Grande took the liberty to do a 5 minute long greatest hits medley. How did they fare?
Taylor's performance notably benefitted from two things: playback and voice processing. Over the past week it's obvious that some voice processing was used on her voice, creating an ever so slightly noticeable metallic twang to her voice. The playback also undoubtedly helped her stay on pitch and cover her voice at points, like Blank Space's chorus. She also had some throaty strain on some of the higher portions that signaled distress. That being said, one can't deny that what Taylor doesn't bring to the table in vocals, she makes up for with performing.
With all the facial expressions, hair grabbing and body language, she can sell a performance. Even while she was just standing on a runway and singing, she acted out the song enough to make it come alive, even when most of the attention wasn't on her. She's come a long way in the past few years, and she seems to know now how to play her strengths.
Ariana however, is like Taylor's opposite. She always brings impressive - albeit sometimes pitchy - vocals, but can't seem to diversify her performances enough to make them interesting. We've essentially seen the same over-knee boots, ponytail and give or take cat ears since April, and she's used the greatest hits medley without Love Me Harder at the X Factor Australia and the American Music Awards. While one must admire her work ethic, her creativity for live performances just isn't there yet. Perhaps her and Taylor could give each other some tips on their strengths?
Ariana's performance was by her standards, okay. Her riff on "is" in Love Me Harder was mostly puffed air, of course her lower notes weren't settling in right, but overall when she was in her comfortable mid-range she sounded perfect. Bang Bang was solid besides an iffy head voice note after an impressive G5 belt. Break Free always seems to give her the most problems because of its lower extension, but again, it wasn't that bad. Problem, AKA the vocal event of the year, was surprisingly mowed down by Ariana's incredible upper chest voice. Though she did seem to lose her breath understandably at the end, all of the complaints one could give throughout the entire performance were minor. If Ariana could tweak her enunciation, pitch and lower register, it would be hard to register any complaints against her.